One Stop, Two Attractions
July 2006 The Homesteader
When looking for a day-trip in Central Florida, one stop on U.S. 27 in Clermont provides two attractions: The Florida Citrus Tower, and the Presidents Hall of Fame.
The Citrus Tower, which offers a stunning, 35-mile panoramic view from the top of its 22-stories, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in July. The House of Presidents incorporates a wax museum with miniature replicas to present an entertaining lesson in American history.
When erected in 1956, the Citrus Tow-er was intended to showcase the orange and grapefruit industry, and at that time visitors who took the elevator to the top could see citrus groves seemingly without end, but with devastating freezes in subsequent years many groves were sub-divided or otherwise developed.
The present-day view from to top of the 226-foot tall tower still includes plenty of citrus groves. But also visible are thousands of homes, many beautiful lakes, the neighboring cities of Clermont and Minneola, other nearby cities and even downtown Orlando and some of the taller structures at Walt Disney World, 35 miles east of the tower.
The operators of the Citrus Tower have a good-natured on-going rivalry with the Bok Tower Gardens at Lake Wales about which one offers the highest possible view in Florida without an aircraft.
The Citrus Tower is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $1 for children from 3 to 15 years old. There is a museum and gift shop on the ground floor.
The Presidents Hall of Fame opened in 1960 as a wax museum called the House of Presidents. Three decades later, it was expanded to include authentic miniature replicas of the White House and other representations of Americana by artists John and Jan Zweifel of Orlando.
A tour of the Hall of Fame begins in the present, with visitors greeted by wax figures of George W. and Laura Bush. All of the nation's presidents are represented in wax figures, and the figure of Abraham Lincoln is mechanically animated. Lincoln is presented as if in the glow of the footlights in his final moments in the Ford Theatre.
Many detailed historic dioramas by the Zweifels are on display, including replicas of the White House Treaty Room, the Oval Office as it looked in the Truman and Kennedy administrations, and a scale model of the White House under construction. Also exhibited is a treasure trove of photographs, paintings, multimedia presentations, memorabilia and more.
Other aspects of Americana on display are an animated scale model of a three-ring circus in high detail, a waxwork figure of Mark Twain and a carriage once used by the famous 19th century performer and celebrity Tom Thumb.
Returning to the museum in July, after touring the country for ten years, is a replica of The White House that the Zweifels worked on for 35 years. The replica most recently was on display in the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, MO. A museum spokesman said that special events are being planned to mark the return of the miniature White House to the permanent display. The White House in Miniature is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide, and includes meticulous detail inside and out, right down to the wall hangings inside.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, year-round. Admission is $11.95 for adults, and $6.95 for children ages 5 though 11. For information about the House of Presidents, call 352-394-2836.
For information about the Florida Citrus Tower, call (352) 394-4061.